I Was on the Border

Dictionary.com defines a border as the edge or boundary of something, or the part near it
I was born on the border of black or just physically passing
Skin brown enough that the earth calls it mother
That old white women still move their grocery carts away from me
Their husbands scraping the leather on purses to move them quickly enough

I am “white enough” that more often than not I am not human
I am an oreo
Artificial, disposable
I live on the edge of being wanted and unloved

The border marks my skin
Between those who America loves and those of us who she doesn’t
The others look at me the way the police do
Like I’m always within a block of an unlocked car
Brushing past a woman with loose purse strings
I am the gray area between criminal and black woman
The receptionist at my high school thought I was lost, in the wrong place
A woman at J Crew followed me until she heard me speak
She said I sounded white, eloquent
I think she means that while living on the border your money speaks for you

I was born into a family with white men that I call kin
I was born just brown enough that the white boy’s Mom still doesn’t like me
The college police still check my ID
I speak about luxuries in the future tense, like I can write away years of these oppressions

I was born by a border that knows too many fires to start another flame
Too many ashes have kissed the pavement
I live in the overlap
Where my neighbors call the noises fireworks
And I have friends who mistake them for gunshots

I was born on the inside of wire fences and so I still know very few white picket fences that let
my people in

I’m from a town where Jesus isn’t a myth only his blackness is
Where they cover up years of discrimination with the calloused palms of landscapers
They say racism is over
but I see the perpetrator’s now gray hair and realize it hasn’t missed a generation

I was born in the split between my ancestor’s hopes and our realities

There are no reparations even for
Picking cotton off of shelves that appropriate us, mocking us
picking it until fingers bleed, pools of blood around black hands
Some who I love are dead,
they are cracked black bones
I was born into the land of the free home of the brave

My parents raised me to love America
Even when she doesn't love me back
To proclaim admiration for a flag
I can’t wave back to
To love a woman that can’t define intersectional feminism

I border the whites and blacks
Sitting in class in elementary school so many black names were said that taking attendance in
school sounds like speaking in tongues

I was born in the crevice of hope
Or that’s all I allow myself to remember
When my president was black
And the streets were filled with milk and honey

Doesn't America love the underdog because we say we see ourselves in them?
Like rags to riches story
I mean black to human story
Like brown boy misses slavery by a handful of generations and goes to Harvard
Brown boy becomes President and is no longer South Side Brown Boy
No longer sprinkled ashes of little brown boys in the south side
We live on the border of progress
Of history using my people to cleanse itself of its sins

I live on the edge of my future
I can feel it’s heart beating
It’s teeth tugs away at my clothing, chewing on my skin
I can feel it
Bordering who I am and should be

Submitted by Lizzie Franclemont

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